Thamizh Talkies: Melodies that matter
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
On one rainy evening in Chennai (before the clouds decided to carry the rains away), my mind kept drifting to the song, "Mazhaiye mazhaiye ilamai muzhudhum nanaiyum varaiyil vaa”. The song is from Amma, and is from the 'only-seen-on-Oliyum-Oliyum' (a popular 80s and 90s Doordarshan TV show) playlist. It sounded like an Ilaiyaraaja number or so I have been believing all my life till I googled it, to share on Twitter. And then, I found the names of the composers. I instantly smiled because just a few days prior to this 'discovery', I had lost a bet with a friend at a dinner table who said the composer of another film Aattukkara Alamelu was not MS Viswanathan.
The music composers of both the above-mentioned films are Shankar-Ganesh. They had been long-time associates of MSV, and hence their music obviously had his influence the most. A Twitter thread on them threw up more favourites: Nadiganin Kadhali Nadagam Yenadi from the Kamal Haasan-Rajinikanth-Sridevi starrer, Thayillamal Naanillai; the Jency-SPB duet Paniyum Neeye Malarum Naaney from the film Panimalar; their all-time hit song, Meghame Meghame sung by Vani Jayaram for the film, Palaivanacholai (those who have missed such gems from Oliyum Oliyum do look for them online). And then this song, where SPB hits it out of the park in the most lilting, mischievous manner as he shines with his effortless singing: Naan Kattil Mele Kanden Vennilaa from the film, Neeya.
Every era in Tamil cinema has its own star composer, but not all films can go to them. Hence, it’s also imperative that those who did shine during the times of MSV or Ilaiyaraaja or Rahman must be celebrated as well. Legend has it that Shankar-Ganesh’s debut happened because Jayalalitha recommended them to producer Chinnappa Thevar as they had worked with her on a dance drama before. Prior to that, their goodwill came from both MSV and Kannadasan who again took them to Thevar Films for a film which never took off. But their music career did take off, and two key films they composed music for, hit bull's eye in the late 70s. The films starred none other than MGR, with songs from Naan Yean Pirandhen and Idhayaveenai making their mark.
But it was another movie produced by Thevar Films which made the industry and the audience take to Shankar Ganesh’s signature mix of folk with a subtle nod towards Hindustani classical (the influence of which is mostly felt in Meghame meghame). The film which changed their fortunes (and actor Sripriya’s) was Aattukkara Alamelu and the song, Paruthi edukkayiley yenna palanaalum paartha machaan, was a major hook that got women audiences thronging to see the film. The movies which followed with Thevar Films and other major actors and producers ensured Shankar and Ganesh were here to stay.
In 1990, a song which captured everyone’s hearts including mine was the melodious duet from the Karthik Revathy-starrer Idhaya Thamarai, Oru kadhal dhevadhai bhoomiyil vandhaal. This song is hugely popular even now and an RJ friend of mine still has it as her signature music on air for her show on love. The album of Idhaya Thamarai has six songs, with all of them adding to the romantic appeal of the Karthik and Revathy pairing.
While Ilaiyaraaja shone as the brightest star of Tamil film music for two decades, music directors like Shankar-Ganesh still managed to hold their own and gave us songs we can still go back to on a rainy day. Now let’s hope the rains and more music find themselves in our lives this week as well.
Do add your favourite song to this Shankar-Ganesh playlist. And maybe, just maybe, one of my favourites, Mazhaiye mazhaiye, may just bring the rains back.